Previewing The Rangers-Penguins

Deadspin's NHL Conference Semifinal Previews come courtesy of Melt Your Face-Off. Over at MYFO, Sunday service starts tonight, and holding back when the collection plate comes around earns you a two-minute seat in the penalty pew. In the meantime, Hextall454 brings you the righteous preview of the New York/Pittsburgh showdown.

From Paul's First Letter To The Russians: So the Prophecy according to Bettman didn't come together exactly. The free will of the orange-clad mortal Joffrey Lupul in DC Tuesday night may have altered a few plans. The first of many playoff battles between the league two great young talents, Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin, just got pushed off until the next testament.

But what's the point of a good Christian fable when Hockey Jesus and his gym class rival lace them up for seven long games? Where's the damn intrigue? The hellfire and the damnation? In a battle of Good vs. Good, Good's probably going to pull it out, even if the victor may be a Geico caveman every now and then.

You want a good story? You're going to need Evil in the Conference Semis.

Enter the New York Rangers. Even though the Commish couldn't get a dream matchup of his two marquee stars, it never hurts to have the league's biggest TV market alive and well in Round 2. After dispatching the Devils in a quick 5, the Blueshirts have been waiting patiently to cast the first stones at Marc-Andre Fleury, the only unbeaten netminder of this postseason. The obvious storyline to gravitate towards would be that of Jaromir Jagr, who spent his early years winning games and avoiding barber shops in Steel Town. He's back to remind you yinzers where he came from. And to stay off his lawn.

But here's the crazy thing. While New York postseason stories are often about just one star player, this Ranger squad actually plays like a complete team. Other than Michal Rosival and Marc Staal, everyone's ice time stayed below 20 minutes in Round 1. And every player not on that dreadful fourth line put the plus in plus/minus. Coach Tom Renney saw his team dispatch New Jersey as a unit, making it easy to fill in the same lineup card each night.

OK, someone fire up the organ. Crank that hymn.

It's true that Ottawa didn't exactly bring their 'A' Game to Pennsylvania, but even if they had, the Pittsburgh Penguins were ready for them. When a team plays dominant hockey, when every battle in the corner comes up in their favor, the stars of the team tend to work on the little things. Hockey Jesus, for example, worked on his passing; his 6 assists have him tied for the league lead. Jordan Staal started winning face-offs once more. And Gary Roberts would like all his fellow members of the Class of 1984 Entry Draft that the reunion will be held at the Radisson in Murraysville once the playoffs are over.

Sure, this is all nice analysis. But you were saying something about a Holy War?

Previewing The Rangers-Penguins

Oh, right. Sean Avery's a New York Ranger, and is the complete opposite of the salvation Crosby's offering to bring the hockey world. Here his is modeling his trademarked Punch Me in the Face Eyewear. Available at concourse fan stands everywhere, as well as NHL.com Shop.

Prediction: Penguins in 7, Avery with 23 PIM.